Merida, 31st October 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – A new prison inaugurated in Lara state yesterday has been praised by Vice President Jorge Arreaza as part of a transformation of Venezuela's prison system.
During its inauguration yesterday, Arreaza stated that along with planning to construct 24 new prisons nationwide, President Nicolas Maduro has “approved resources to carry out an intervention into the old prisons of the Fourth Republic”.
“We are eliminating the vices and corruption that prisons created in the Fourth Republic had,” he said.
“These prisons were criminal factories, [but] will now be transformed,” he stated.
Located near the pre-existing Uribana prison in Barquisimeto, the 17 building Fenix Community Penitentiary has a capacity of 1,400 inmates, and cost Bs657 million to construct. It is comprised of minimum, medium and maximum security sections.
According to the Vice President, Fenix was constructed as part of a wider reform to the prison network. He described the new model as providing “pathways for final inclusion in society, with dignity and respect”.
457 prisoners have already been moved to the new facility. According to Minister for Correctional Services Iris Valera, “most of the inmates have said they want to be voluntarily transferred to the new prison”.
However, according to Valera, prisoners in the new penitentiary are required to either work or study.
At Fenix “inmates can study, work [and] create culture and music,” Arreaza said.
“There are opportunities here to truly transform your life,” Valera stated.
Valera also stated that in building new prisons, “we look for ways to get a space or geographic area that has the conditions and will not generate disturbance to the peace of the community, because we seek the supreme happiness of Venezuelans”. Currently, seven of the 24 planned prisons are under construction.
“In a few years, under the new model, all inmates will be in conditions like these. They may use these centers to reform, renew the spirit and have a life after leaving here,” Arreaza stated.
Overcrowding in Venezuela's Prisons
According to a report from Venezuelan Prisons Observatory earlier this year, Venezuela's prisons were built to hold a combined prisoner population of 16,539, but at the time were housing around 53,000 inmates.
This week's inauguration comes just over a week after six inmates in a prison in Amazonas state were killed and two others were injured in a brawl last Tuesday.
Last month, another outbreak of prison violence claimed 15 lives in Zulia state. At the time of the violence, the Sabaneta prison in the state capital of Maracaibo was holding around 3,700 inmates; it was build to hold 700.
At the time, Valera condemned the violence, describing it as part of an “internal war within the prison”.
“We don't want even one more death. Enough of the violence,” Valera stated.